Convict Histories

Charles Lyon, aka Lyons (c1816 – 1889) (Reg. No. 7473)

By Irma Walter, 2023.

Charles Lyon was born to parents William and Mary Lyon and was christened on 20 October 1816 at Prescot in Lancashire. At the time of the 1841 Census, he was living with his father William, mother Mary, and sisters Anne and Ellen at Mill Hill in Prescot, Lancashire.

Charles was not an uneducated man. He was able to read and write, and was employed as a maker of parts for watches and chronometers. [At that time the small town of Prescot was the centre of the Lancashire watch and clock-making industry, with small workshops mainly attached to houses. By 1860 over a third of the town’s population were employed in the industry. However, by the 1880s much of the industry had closed down, due to competition from Switzerland and America.[1]]

Charles was prone to violence and from an early age was well-known to the local police, serving time in Kirkdale Prison on six occasions between September 1834 and January 1846, five of these as a result of assaults.[2]

Kirkdale Prison[3]

Transportation to Van Dieman’s Land

A more serious charge in August 1846 found Charles Lyon convicted of shooting at John Wainwright, gamekeeper for the Earl of Derby. In the company of a man named Lloyd, both armed with guns, they were confronted by two keepers and a gun was discharged. Wainwright received slight shot wounds to his knuckles and leg. Lyon was found guilty of wounding with intent to murder and was sentenced to 14 years’ transportation.[4]

He was removed from Millbank Prison on 5 October 1846 and on 8 October set sail for Van Dieman’s Land onboard the Pestongee Bomanjee.[5] The ship arrived there on 17 February 1847.

On arrival Charles Lyon was described in detail, as a watch and chronometer movement maker, aged 30, 5’ 8”, with a ruddy complexion, large head, brown hair, red whiskers, a large broad visage, low forehead, brown eyebrows, light grey eyes, a small nose and large dimpled chin. He was a Protestant, able to read and write, married with two children (another entry on the page says one child). His wife was listed as Jane, his father William, mother Mary, and sisters Ann, Ellen and Elizabeth.[6]

Charles Lyon’s rebellious nature came to the fore during his years in Tasmania. He regularly disobeyed orders and several times absconded, receiving terms of hard labour as a result. At one stage he refused to clean water closets and was sentenced to 14 days’ solitary confinement. He received his Ticket of Leave on 7 October 1856. Shortly afterwards on 10 October, a ticket-of-leave man named Charles Lyon was charged with being out after hours and falsely representing himself to be free. He was sentenced to seven days’ solitary confinement.[7] Charles received his Conditional Pardon on 1 December 1857.[8]

His Return to England

A Court case at the Liverpool Assizes in December 1861 shows that in March that year Charles Lyon had arrived back in his home town of Prescot in Lancashire. The 1861 Census taken on 7 April for Prescot records Charles Lyon, aged 44, watchmaker, living with his mother Mary, aged 72, shopkeeper, and her grandson Joseph Lyon, aged 20, a watch tool-maker, at 77 Ecclestone Street, Mill Hill, Prescot.

By the time of Charles’s trial for the attempted murder of his mother, Mary was living in lodgings with Ann Rose in Brown’s Square, Prescot, in fear of her life at the hands of her violent son, who was also threatening to kill his nephew. Mary must have regretted sending money to assist Charles with his return passage.[9]

York Herald, 28 December 1861.

Found guilty of attempted murder, Charles Lyon was sentenced to transportation for life. His previous convictions, including one in August 1846 for unlawful wounding which resulted in 14 years’ transportation, were taken into account at the time of sentencing, although his character was described as ‘Moderately Good’.[10] He was received at Chatham Prison from Leicester Prison on 4 August 1862, described as a labourer, aged 46,  height 5’8”, with brown hair, blue eyes, a fair complexion, long face, scars on his right thumb and left side of neck, round shoulders and sandy whiskers.[11]

While awaiting transportation he spent time on a convict prison hulk. His conduct at one stage was recorded as ‘Bad’.[12]

His Second Transportation

On 9 September 1863 Charles Lyon was taken onboard the convict ship Lord Dalhousie, which set sail on 25 September on a 90-day voyage bound for the Swan River Colony. One of 270 convicts, Charles arrived on 28 December 1863. His description was aged 49, labourer. At this stage he was listed as a widower with no children (?). His Next of Kin was listed as Isaac Woolward, Preston.[13]

His possessions on arrival were five books plus the following items –

Prisoners’ Property Book (V14)

Charles’s early record shows a defiant attitude against authority –

5/1/64 – Discharged from Convict Establishment.[14]

21/5/64 – Refusing to work on the Perth Causeway – 3 days’ Bread & Water.

4/8/65 – Assaulting fellow prisoner – Tobacco stopped 6 months and cautioned.

6/4/66 – Insubordination – 3 days’ Bread & Water.

5/6/66 – Malingering – 3 days’ Bread & Water.

29/6/66 – To North Fremantle.[15]

17/8/67 – Ticket of Leave to Police Magistrate, Perth.

20/8/67 – Mount Eliza Depot.

18/11/67 – To York Depot.

1/12/67 – Perth Prison.

1/1/68 – Mt Eliza Depot.

31/5/68 – Perth Prison.

30/6/68 – Ditto.

24/12/68 – Ditto.

31/12/68 – Ditto.

4/1/69 – Perth to York.

30/4/70 – York Depot.

21/3/70 – R.M. York – Refusing to work and gross insolence – cautioned and sent back to                Party.

31/5/70 – Perth Prison until 30/6/72. [Crime unknown.]

18/5/70 – P.M., Perth – Absconding from Cut Hill Party – 10 days Solitary Confinement, first   5 days Bread & Water, at Perth.

12/12/71 – P.M. Perth – Insolence to Mr. Townsend, and assaulting him by throwing contents of his cell bucket in his face – one month Solitary Confinement, first 7 days Bread & Water.

30/6/72 – York Depot.

12/10/72 – R.M. York – Refusing to work – 2 days.

18/10/72 – Ticket of Leave revoked.

20/1/73 – Released.

31/12/73 – York Depot.

14/1/74 – Paper Certificate in lieu of Conditional Pardon to R.M., York.[16]

His Employment Record

With no possibility of finding work in the watch-making trade, Charles was employed variously as a laborer and herdsman, mostly in the York district –

4/1/68 – Laborer, 25/- per month, M. Benson, Perth.

26/9/68 – Laborer, 20/- per month, R. Raynor (?), Perth.

2/12/68 – General Servant, 30/- per month, F. Sherwood, Peninsula.

19/1/69 – General Servant, piece work, York, F. Prosser, Baggaley.

22/4/69 – Ditto, 30/- per month, R.B. Leake, York.

5/1/71 – (Herd?) keeper, 20/- per month, Jas. Makewell(?), Canning.

19/5/71 – Laborer, 20/- per month, T. Wilson, Perth.

19/6/71 – Ditto, 25/- per month, J.F. Herald (?), Perth.

30/6/71 – Ditto.

15/2/73 – General Servant, 30/- per month, York, John Taylor, Yangedine.

24/2/73 – Laborer, piece work, Geo. McLeod, York.

29/5/73 – Gen. Servant, 30/- per month, York, Joseph Hicks.

23/7/73 – Laborer, piece work, York, S.E. Burges, Tipperary.[17]

Despite various stints in Perth Prison, no references to Charles Lyon have yet been found in newspapers of the day.

On 3 September 1885, Charles Lyon, laborer, general servant, herd-keeper, applied for admission to the Mount Eliza Invalid Depot.[18] He died there and on 26 June 1889, aged 72, he was buried in the East Perth Cemetery, grave site unmarked.[19]


[1] Lancashire Watch Company, https:/

[2] Calendar of Trials, Liverpool Gaol, Archive Reference No.PCOM2, 32.

[3] The Fascinating History of Kirkdale’s Old Gaol,

[4] Liverpool Albion, 24 August 1846.

[5] Millbank Prison Registers, Male Prisoners, Volume 3, Series HO24, Piece No.3.

[6] Libraries Tasmania, CON33 -1-84, Image 106.

[7] Tasmanian Daily News, 16 October 1856.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Liverpool Mercury, 30 November 1861.

[10] Convict Department Registers, General Register (R26-R27)

[11] Chatham Prison, Kent, Register of Prisoners, Series PCOM2, Piece No. 2.

[12] Convict Hulks, Quarterly Returns of Prisoners, Series HO8, Piece Nos. 153, 155, 156, 157.

[13] Convict Department, General Register (R29)

[14] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges (Rd3-Rd4)

[15] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges (Rd5-Rd7)

[16] Convict Department Registers, General Register (R26-R27)

[17] Ibid.

[18] Fremantle Prison History, base/

[19] East Perth Cemetery Records,